Spock's Beard - LIVE: The Arches, Glasgow 2013

Brief Nocturnes & Dreamless Sleep Tour
May 4 (20:30-22:00)
Capacity 2000

After Sound of Contact had opened proceedings (separate review here) on the Glasgow stop of Spock's Beard's European tour, came something very different from SOC in the shape of Beardfish, a four piece who have a quirky look to match their music.

Opening with a track from their new CD The Void called Voluntary Slavery, featuring a solid and heavy groove, some growling vocals (only for a short time), and a bassist (Robert Hansen) who glides across a stage beautifully whilst smiling all the while, this band easily show they have the chops and the showmanship to entertain the eyes as well as the ears. Singer Rikard Sjoblom has a wonderful range vocally which shows immediately into the set. The second of their short three song setlist was a "brand new song" which hasn't yet been recorded called A Point Of View, which Rikard explained was about bullies and bullying. He explained how as a father to a young girl he worries about her going to school and what she might have to face. For this he transferred from guitar to keyboards. This was quite a pop style song and completely different from the opening song.

After this they played "a quick fifteen minute song" from the new album which changed in style throughout, one section being reminiscent of Neil Sedaka in the jollity of the piano sound along with the vocals. There was confusion amongst the audience, or at least, bemused looks during the song when many thought the lyrics referred to him putting on his "basque of death". It must have been the accent which confused the crowd and caused some laughter as people had that image in their head. It was of course "mask of death", which isn't quite as odd. The track itself (Note) was unbelievable. It was very British in a way (thought they're Swedish) due to the humour and pathos of the piece. This is a band that excels live and deserve more attention. Hopefully they will do their own headline tour sometime soon as thirty minutes is not long enough.

So after two very good support slots the crowd were suitably warmed up for the headliners. Playing a larger hall than when they previously played in Glasgow and with a healthy sized crowd within, the band came onto the stage. Opening with Something Very Strange, one of six tracks they played from their excellent new CD Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep, with its electronic/alien voices and longish intro (made longer by a seeming cock up at the start resulting in some of it being played twice), was a good choice. With its build up featuring some intricate bass and funky keyboards into the body of the song showing the skill of the players and causing lots of head bobbing in the crowd until the vocals kick in. And those vocals, provided by Ted Leonard, were incredibly impressive in range and power. As for the harmonies, well they are something very special. Not many bands could provide such emotion and beauty.

For the second track Ted pointed over to Ryo (Okumoto) on keyboards to start things, at which point confusion reigned as Ryo went to play the wrong track. Ted explained that due to curfew they were jumping a song from the set, leading to boos from the crowd, not aimed at the band themselves but the fact venues have such early curfew times. It is a quandary as to whether bands who have two support acts on tour should have both play if there is such an early curfew to the detriment of their own set. Then again, if someone has come along especially to see one of the support bands who are then dropped, they would feel ripped of... or should gigs like this start at tea time? Something that needs to be looked at.

Next they went back to 1999 and the Day And Night album with the song Crack The Big Sky. With all of the band having moments to shine the energy and fun they were having poured out into the audience. The fun continued when a couple of songs later the crowd "missed your cue" at the start of Walking On The Wind, repeating the opening for them so they could "get it right this time". The crowd nailed things next time leading to laughs and cheers from all concerned. Some of Ryo's playing was jaw dropping half way through, and by the end of the set he got even more impressive. The guitar solos were uplifting and beautifully played and it could be said its emotion over style all the way here. Before breaking into Submerged Ted spoke about how privileged he felt to be in the band. He seemed chuffed with the fact he was also singing a song he wrote for the new album. With its pop sensibilities and catchy chorus it's is SB at their least prog. Alan Morse wandered about the stage throwing shapes and strange facial contortions and with his dark glasses he sort of ended up looking like a younger and nearly as manic Jack Nicholson.

One of the many highlights from the new CD is also a live highlight. Afterthoughts is a tour de force of vocal dexterity and was nailed tight. How they can keep all the vocals so tight on the canon is a wonder and delight. Outside of Gentle Giant no one does this style better. After this they headed back again in time for one of their most reflective songs The Distance To The Sun, with its plain vocal and gentle guitar this was very moving and a break from the energy packed performance that had been going on so far. Finishing the main set with the longest track on the Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep CD Waiting For Me featured some terrific guitar soloing from Alan.

Throughout there was great banter from the band including a slagging for Ryo having too much equipment and resulting in the bass player being hidden most of the night from view unless you were at an angle to the stage!

The encore went back to the first album, and started with technical issues from the keyboards, leading to the remark "so 200 Glaswegians walk into a bar" as everyone had to wait a few moments. Eventually after some hilarity they pulled off a great version of Go The Way You Go. What was noticeable during this was the respect they have off each other. When Ryo left his banks of keyboards, picking up his over the shoulder set to rock out with Alan, both indicated for Ted to join up front but he held back pointing and saying "let Ryo have front stage". Little moments like this help to create a warmth and comradery between band and fans alike. In fact watching the rest of the band applauding Ryo as he impressed with his solo was also great to see.

So it was a wonderful night high in great musicianship, as well as fun and laughs, proving that prog rock does not need to be po-faced or detached, as it's so often stereotyped.

“ a smaller but very interested crowd ”

Beardfish setlist: Voluntary Slavery / A Point of View / Note

Spock's Beard setlist: Something Very Strange / Crack The Big Sky / Hiding Out / Walking On The Wind / Submerged / Cakewalk On Easy Street / Afterthoughts / The Distance To The Sun / Waiting For Me // Go The Way You Go

Written by Tom Cornell
More: 2013, Gigs, Progressive,

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